May 9 2013
When Jesus first met Peter he said “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Peter” (John 1:42). Why does Jesus rename a full grown man? Was this a nickname? No. In ancient times someone in a position of authority would name those under them to empower them (Gen 41:45). This is why parents put so much emphasis on the names they gave to their children. It is also why God told Abram (meaning exalted father) that he would now be called Abraham (father of many). He was empowering Abram to be a father of many nations. It is also why he changed Jacob (he grasps the heel or ‘deceives’) to Israel (he struggles with God). After Jacob wrestled with God he had become a new man.
Jesus was empowering Simon to become a new man. He was to become Peter which means ‘rock.’ But as we look at scripture we can see that this was going to be a process. Simon was anything but a rock, he was impulsive and unstable; the kind of guy that spoke and acted without thinking; regretting it later. ♦ He jumped out a boat and walked on water; only to realize a few steps later what he was really doing and started to sink. He suddenly drew a sword and chopped off a man’s ear when Jesus was being arrested and Jesus had to rebuke him and tell him to put the sword away. He said he would never leave Jesus even if all others did, but denied Jesus three times in one evening. Simon was not a rock, but he was called to be one; to be someone who was stable and whom others could depend on. And he did, but it took time, it was a process.
The renaming of Simon tells us something; God gives people new names, and he calls us from what we are to what he wants us to be. He is calling you to be someone, and if you are called you are named. God has a destiny for you. But God doesn’t just call individuals to be something new, he also calls groups of people to be something new. The twelve apostles were called from their various occupations and backgrounds to be the foundation upon which the church would be built (Eph 2:20). Each of the seven churches in Rev 2-3 had an allocated angel who carried a message that could transform their church, and in two cases new names were promised to those who were changed by the message the angel carried (2:12, 3:12). So what is the message to your specific church? What is God calling your church to be? What is the name over it? Here at Vineyard Mombasa we believe we are called to be ‘real.’ There is a big need for Evangelical and Pentecostal churches in Africa to stop their religious performances and to start being real. So we and others are trying to model something that is relatively new in our area. We are challenging all believers to be real and telling all unbelievers that we are a church they can relate too (See our series on being real for details).
But let’s get back to the story of Simon who became Peter. Sometime later Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was (Matthew 16:13-19). The crowds had been saying that he was one of the prophets who had come back from the dead. But Jesus wanted to know what his twelve disciples were thinking. And he wasn’t looking for polite praise; he wanted to know what was honestly in their hearts. Of course Simon was the first to speak, saying “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said, “Blessed are you Simon son of John, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” Simon had spoken revelation; he had expressed what God had put in him. Then Jesus said “I tell you that you are Peter (petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church.” As you can see the original Greek for ‘Peter’ here is petros which means a small detached rock, and the original Greek for ‘rock’ is petra which means a large layer of bed rock. Jesus was using a play on words. He was saying that the small rock (Peter) would come about as a result of the big rock (the revelation that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God). And he went on to explain that the entire church would be built upon this same revelation. And this is our experience; the universal church is built on the revelation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. It is this revelation that changes us from what we are to what God wants us to be. But there are smaller revelations that fit within this big one. And each individual and each local church has a specific revelation or calling. Again I ask, what are you called to be, what is your church called to be? It’s important to pay close attention to what God has put in your pastor and ask if God has put it in you. God adds people to local churches by putting a similar calling in each individual. Our local callings are just smaller parts of the greater bed rock. Years later Peter said “As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:4-5). I guess Peter would know!
But let us look at one more thing Jesus revealed to Simon. He said “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades (or death) will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” The revelation that ‘Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God’ equips all who have it to overcome death and to be able to bind evil and release God’s kingdom in the earth. We are transformed into rocks so we can transform others into rocks. But it doesn’t happen overnight. Simon had to be corrected and restored a number of times. The most well known was after his denial (John 21: 15-17). Jesus said to Simon “Do you love me?” He asked him three times because Simon had denied him three times. And when Simon affirmed that he did love him, Jesus replied “Feed my sheep.” Jesus was again asking “What’s in you Simon? What’s in your heart? If it’s me, be Peter, be a rock for the others.” And Simon did become Peter the rock. On the Day of Pentecost he stood before a large crowd and declared that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God. The petra had transformed him into petros and now he was sharing the revelation he had with all others. He was feeding Christ’s sheep. Liquid Simon had become concrete Pete.
Every person and every church is called and transformed for their own healing and the healing of their community. Our transformation happens first, and so there is often a delay between calling and the release to go. Churches often need time for their vision (calling) to be established in the hearts of their people before they can impact their community. But when we are called and named we are empowered. What is your church called to be? What is your church called to do? Our church slogan ‘Real God Real People’ reveals who we are and how we intend to reach our community.
Words to Vineyard Mombasa: What has God put in you? | It’s time to be prominent.
Other Illustrations used: Nicknames in our church | When your name matches your church.
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